Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
Venue: Selhurst Park
Date: Wednesday, 14 December 2016
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Manchester United produced a late winner to stun Crystal Palace with a 2-1 victory to seal what seemed an unlikely victory at one stage.
Despite taking the lead through Paul Pogba on the stroke of half-time and controlling the game, James McArthur’s equaliser looked like another 1-1 league draw for Jose Mourinho’s side.
However, that grit, determination, and never give in attitude allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to secure the three points with a world-class finish befitting of the man who scored it.
Early on, Wayne Rooney headed over from Juan Mata’s cross as Pogba’s whipped effort from distance fell over.
Scott Dann deflected an Ibrahimovic shot wide before Pogba’s cutely dinked pass allowed Rooney to fire at goal on the half-volley, only for Wayne Hennessey to turn the ball behind with a superb save.
The Welsh keeper was at it again, denying Pogba via his legs, but was helpless during first half stoppage time as the lead was taken.
Mata’s testing free-kick delivery was chested down by Ibrahimovic, which allowed Pogba to pounce on the loose ball and produce a close range finish.
With the introduction of Joe Ledley at half-time, Palace grew into the game, and Ledley himself fired just wide of David De Gea’s left-hand post.
United’s Player of the Season for the past three years then denied McArthur’s top corner bound strike and held the resulting header from Dann via the corner.
McArthur wasn’t to be denied a second time though, as neat link-up play ended in Damien Delaney’s flick finding his teammates, as the former composed himself to slot home a left foot finish.
Looking for a response, Rooney created space for himself and curled an effort towards the target which was turned behind, and the resulting corner clearly struck the arm of Ledley, only for under-fire referee Craig Pawson to not see, or certainly not award a clear penalty.
The officials cost the visitors again moments later as Marcos Rojo’s headed knockdown was tapped in by Mata, but the flag went up for offside when replays showed this clearly wasn’t the case.
Rojo himself headed wide from Rooney’s corner as substitute Jesse Lingard was denied by another smart save after Ibrahimovic’s prodded pass set up the Warrington born attacker.
As the fixture seemed destined for a draw, the quality of arguably the two best players on the pitch combined to alter the outcome of the match.
Using his strength and body to hold off his man, Pogba’s delightful through ball found Ibrahimovic in the left-hand channel, and despite the pressure and tight angle, his immaculate finish found the far corner and gift the victory to the away side.
With late goals throwing away points of late, Sunday’s clean sheet to hold onto a lead and tonight’s late goal of their own is pleasing to see, as the side showed tremendous character to keep going and find a way of winning.
This was the first time since August that back-to-back league victories have been recorded, as performances are beginning to turn into results, with three consecutive wins and nine matches unbeaten evidencing this.
Up next is another away game at West Bromwich Albion, in the final fixture before Christmas, and a chance to keep the pace with the top four, with the Merseyside derby and Manchester City versus Arsenal also taking place this weekend.
Manchester United: De Gea; Bailly (Darmian 52), Jones, Rojo, Blind; Herrera, Carrick, Pogba; Mata (Lingard 71), Ibrahimovic, Rooney (Rashford 80).
Subs not used: Romero, Fellaini, Schweinsteiger, Young.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Ward; McArthur (Campbell 87), Flamini (Ledley 46), Cabaye; Lee (Fryers 80), Benteke, Zaha.
Subs not used: Speroni, Townsend, Husin, Wan-Bissaka.
Manager: Alan Pardew